Here is your weekly dose of Good Vibes. Through this newsletter, I bring to you various tool kits, backed up by science, to achieve Deep Health. In this issue, we talk a lot about Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. You’ve heard of mindfulness. Maybe you’ve even tried practicing mindfulness or read about its role in helping to manage stress. Mindfulness is meeting the moment as it is, moment after moment after moment, wordlessly attending to our experiencing as it actually is.
One of Buddha’s teachings is that, as humans, we create suffering and problems in our own minds. And Deep Health cannot be achieved without being mindful. In this issue, we share few toolkits to achieve mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us cope with depression, boost our psychological well-being, manage physical pain, and even have better memory. When it comes to the way we think and feel, being mindful of our emotions helps us to switch to more positive mindsets and work towards being a ‘better’—or at least, a happier—person.
All the beautiful illustrations in this issue are made by Kanupriya Singh
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In ancient days, the seventh day of the week was known as the Sabbath. Reserved for some of life’s most important, yet commonly neglected pursuits, including spending time with one’s family and hours in deep reflection and self- renewal, it provided a chance for hard- working people to renew their batteries and spend a day living life more fully. However, as the pace of life sped up and more activities began to compete for people’s attention, this wonderful tradition was lost, along with tremendous personal benefits that flowed from it. Stress itself is not a bad thing. It can often help us perform at our best, expand beyond our limits and achieve things that would otherwise astonish us. Just ask any elite athlete. The real problem lies in the fact that in this age of global anxiety we do not get enough relief from stress. So to revitalize yourself and nourish the deepest part of you, plan for a weekly period of peace, a weekly sabbatical to get back to the simpler pleasures of life, pleasures that you may have given up as your days grew busier, and your life more complex. Bringing this simple ritual into your life will help you reduce stress, connect with your more creative side and feel far happier in every role you play in your life. Your weekly sabbatical does not have to last a full day. All you need is a few hours alone, perhaps on a quiet Sunday morning, when you can spend some time doing the things you love to do the most. You may choose to spend time in your favorite bookstore, watch the sun rise, takw a solitary walk along a beach or a riverside or write in your journal. Organizing your life to be able to do more of the things you love to do, is one of the first steps to improve your life and live well. Who cares if others don’t understand what you are trying to accomplish by making the weekly sabbatical an essential part of your life! Do it for yourself, you are worth it. In the words of Thoreau, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
(From the preaching of Brahmkumaris)
To live in freedom you have to live at peace with time; live the dimension of time as a creator and not a slave of time; live without being either a prisoner or victim of time. To live at peace with time is to live in harmony with nature, beginning with your inner self. When you plant a sapling today, you cannot accelerate the process so have a tree the next day. When it is summer, you cannot make the earth revolve around the sun quicker or slower for winter to arrive at your will. Everything has its rhythm in nature. We have distanced ourselves from the natural rhythm and our accelerated mind exercises pressure, creates stress and causes anxiety. We plan the future, we are stuck in the past and the present escapes us.
Many worries have to do with how we live time: the past, the present and the future. Worrying about what might happen, when the moment has not yet come for it to happen, takes away from us the necessary energy to deal with it when it finally arrives, if at all it does. Living in memories drains our energy; the past already happened and no longer exists, except in our memory. We feed memories, not realizing that recalling the memory in our mind distracts us from the present and weakens us. It is like being a plug that connects to a socket with no current passing through. We lose our energy. We want to relive an experience that already happened, and in the end, we feel disappointed, feeling a mental and emotional waste.
Not only is your strength reduced by the way that you live the past and project onto the future, but also how you live in this moment. When, for example, you oppose the present and have resistances, these consume your energy and cause you stress. If you accept the present you can flow flexibly without wasting your energy. Accepting does not mean submitting yourself or feeling a victim of what is happening now. From acceptance, you confront and transform. If we learn to live the dimensions of time in a healthy way we will keep up our vitality, we will heal the past and we will feel at peace with it. Accepting the present and trusting in the future helps us to be well.
Accepting the present means stopping comparing yourself with others; you want what the others have, their money, their talents, their beauty, their personality, their achievements, their virtues, etc. So, instead of being grateful for what you have and accepting yourself as you are, you try to have and be like the other. In this way, you are never satisfied. The dissatisfaction causes you a constant unhappiness that reduces your vitality. When you feel happy and satisfied, your energy flows more easily. The most important thing that you should do in this moment is to feel content. Next, what is the most important thing? To be content. Therefore, the priority, and what is essential, is that whatever happens in the moment, the most important thing is to be content.
To live at peace with time is to live it with peace, trust and determination. It is different to live it out of conflict and forcing things. In order to live true freedom of being, we have to make friends with time and stop living stressed in time. We have to trust. Trust that you will arrive on time, that you will do it on time and, if not, that a particular problem will be solved. Don’t let time be a stress factor. When we live stressed because of time, we lose the best of life. We stop living what is essential and important, and we get lost in the details: ‘I have to go here’, ‘I have to finish this’, ‘I have to call up someone’, and endless amounts of ‘I have to…s’ that consume our mental energy and make us get lost in the details of the trivial. As well, in hurrying, we lose quality. You can do everything, but without losing what is essential; do it with love, with care, with interest, with enthusiasm, with motivation and with focus. That way every small action that you take, will have a greater impact, will be more fulfilling and will have a more positive outcome.
You choose, each morning, whether you want begin the day with watching television, read the newspaper over a cup of tea, or you want to get up and listen to peaceful music, read a couple of pages of spiritual content that inspire you and you begin the day with enthusiasm and by visualizing it positively: ‘today will be a marvelous day, I shall enjoy it’ … yes!! Such spiritual practice will give you a feel of time being elastic. True freedom lies in being content now. You can be content in the present moment by resolving the inner dialogue that generates stress and conflict in you. When you are content, enjoying yourself and having a good time, you don’t realize how time passes. This means that, if we lived in a state of constant happiness, we wouldn’t realize how time passes. Time would be at our service. We would be the rulers and controllers of time and not the other way round.
What is mindfulness ?
The ability to be fully present in the moment.
“I am here right now and in the moment, what’s the problem?” you might ask. The problem is that your brain is not. It travels back and forth between the past and future, preoccupied with plans and dreams. Being mindful means concentrating on what’s happening now.
- Your physical sensations: smells and sounds, the shape of the table, everything around you.
- Your physical presence. How are you breathing? Are you standing? What are you doing and how?
- Your thoughts and emotions. Recognise that they don’t define you right now and can’t influence you.
In a nutshell, you must free your brain from every worry except for what’s happening right now. When you practice mindfulness. you nurture your curiosity about life in the present.
- Just observe what’s happening in your mind. Stare at any object. Focus on it. Let your thoughts flow, but remain focused on the object. After you feel full inside, switch to another object.
- Conscious breathing without observing thoughts. Take deep, slow breaths and focus on the air moving in and out of your body. Conscious breathing has been shown to help fight depression. Conscious breathing can also reduce pain, especially chronic pain.
- Conscious eating. When was the last time you paid attention to the taste, structure, and smell of your meal? Try it! Slower- paced eating reduces hunger and the risk of diabetes.
- Body Scan. Try focusing on one area of our body at a time. Stop whenever you find an area that is unusually tight and focus on it until it relaxes or feels normal. Visualise the area and imagine how it functions.
- Focus on stretching, walking, running, or any other physical activity. Try to focus on the way your body is moving, nothing else. Think about your muscles. How are they stretching? Is there any tension? Are they “burning”? Are they pressing against other areas of the body? If you are walking, focus on how your feet feel.
- Focus on your surroundings. Anything around you. What do you smell? What sounds do you hear?
This kind of meditation is about focusing on your thoughts, not your surroundings. Try to observe thoughts from the outside. Sounds strange? Just follow these steps:
- Watch your breathing.
- Watch your thoughts.
- Choose one thought.
- Focus on it.
- Try to examine this thought as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Everything that emerges in your mind, about this thought, must be examined.
- After observing it, just let it go.
- Switch to another thought.
Shifting from Focus to Awareness
Watch your stream of consciousness dispassionately, then catch something from the stream and deliberately focus on it.
Here are some tips to make all types of meditation more effective:
- Take a seat. Sit on a solid and comfortable surface
- Sit up straight but without tension
- Put your arms parallel to your legs
- Drop your chin a little and look forward
- Be present and focus on your own mind
And remember the most important rule: do not judge anything or anybody, including yourself
How long should I meditate for, and how often?
It depends on you and how you feel.
On average, people who are new to mindfulness meditation, spend around 23 minutes practicing every day. And, of course there are no limits. Just experiment with doing more or less and see how you feel. Studies show that the effects of meditation are already noticeable after 20 minutes of practice. That’s when the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain believed to relieve anxiety, is activated. You can meditate for as long as you want, but definitely don’t force yourself. If you’re constantly looking at the clock to check if you’ve done our daily minimum, you’re likely to miss out on the benefits.
When to meditate?
Mornings are easier because your mind isn’t occupied with all kinds of thoughts yet. After work, meditation will help you calm down and create a psychological barrier between work and personal life. Psychologists don’t recommend meditating before going to bed at night. The aim of mindfulness meditation is not relaxation, but being fully aware and present. If you have no other time to meditate except late evening, it’s best to do so at least an hour before going to bed. And remember: use mindfulness whenever you feel anxious, stressed, or depressed.
I use the app Calm to meditate. There are many other apps like Headspace, Buddhify etc., and many online and offline coaching for the same.
( Excerpts From the book Develop Good Habits)
- Drive to work mindfully – When you get into your car, take a few deep breaths. Turn your phone on silent. As you begin to drive, make an extra effort to notice your surroundings. If you get stuck in traffic or someone cuts you off, notice the feelings that arise (anger, frustration, anxiety, competitiveness), and simply identify them. Use traffic stops or other necessary stops to practice a few deep, calming breaths. Once you arrive at your destination after you’ve turned off the engine, sit for a moment and take three deep breaths, really letting go on the exhalation.
- Practice Transition Breathing – How many times have you raced from your car into your office or work and immediately started doing something—checking emails, talking to coworkers, or jumping right into a project? Allow yourself a mindful moment before you switch gears so you can approach your work in a more calm and centered way.
- Clear Your Desk – Visual clutter is distracting and agitating. It slows you down and makes you less productive. The act of clearing and organizing your desk allows you a few minutes of focused mindfulness, as you decide where to put your stuff and what to keep and throw away.
- Focus on Your Work Purpose- Approach your work with love and purpose—no matter how challenging, uninspiring, or difficult it might be. Even if you hate your work, you can find a purpose for your efforts and reduce your feelings of negativity about your job and your life.
- Decrease Distractions – Each distraction enters our mind with one mission: harnessing control of our attention and resources. We are so addicted to the immediate gratification of giving into distractions that our ability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time has become rare.
- Be Present with Peers – One of the common complaints people have about their jobs, involves their interactions with a boss, client, or peer. The pressure to perform coupled with personality differences creates an environment ripe for conflict and competition. You can contribute to a more emotionally intelligent work environment, as well as your own peace of mind, by being more present with the people you work with.
- Create Mindful Meetings – Meetings can be a big drain on your energy and productivity. Rather than thinking of meetings as a waste of time and energy, you can practice mindfulness, before and during meetings, to make them more valuable to you and other attendees. During meetings encourage a beginners mindset, request mutual respect and offer positive feedback.
- Stand, Stretch, and Get Moving – Even if you spend time every week at the gym or exercising, it doesn’t offset the negative impact of extended sitting. Think of standing and stretching as pushing the reset button on your body
- Show Appreciation We are so consumed with our own thoughts, tasks, and obligations that we are unconscious of the many ways others support and help us. Taking the time to express appreciation shows that you are fully present with the other person and tuned into their essential worthiness and their humanity.
- Mindfully End Your Workday – By the end of your workday, you drag yourself to the car, and mindlessly make your way home before one more email hits your inbox or one more person asks you to do something. But if you can mindfully bring your workday to completion, you free your mind to transition more easily to your evening routine, and you set yourself up for a more productive and peaceful start to the next day. Taking just ten minutes to close today and prepare for tomorrow will give you a sense of renewal that you can carry with you out the door.
Top 50 as on 31st March 2022. Hearty Congratulations. You all are rockstars.
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